BY TOM HESTER SR.
Gov. Chris Christie on Thursday is expected to conditionally veto legislation that would make New Jersey the first state to ban the controversial practice of so-called fracking as a way to drill for gas.
The governor is expected to propose the Democratic-controlled Legislature amend the proposal to set a five-year moratorium on the drilling method, according to sources familiar with the issue.
The fracking ban bill (S-2576) was approved by the Legislature in June in response concerns raised by New Jersey environmentalists about potential pollution and public safety issues stemming from fracking. Anti-fracking and environmental groups plan to react to Christie’s action in a press conference set for the Statehouse early Thursday afternoon.
Environmentalists argue that fracking produces hazardous wastewater, which contains radioactive substances as well as toxic, carcinogenic chemicals. Three years ago, energy companies became interested in fracking in the Upper Delaware River Watershed and began buying mineral rights to the land underlain by the region's Marcellus Shale.
Since then, at least 200,000 acres of land have been leased for gas drilling in the Upper Delaware River region, a watershed the provides drinking water to over 15 million people, including 3 million in New Jersey.
Environmentalists state there have been more than 1,000 documented cases of water contamination near fracking drilling sites around the country.
"Governor Christie is making history in deciding whether or not to ban fracking in New Jersey,” Jim Walsh, Food & Water Watch director, said. “His choice will determine whether the drinking water of thousands is compromised with toxic, carcinogenic chemicals; whether our once-protected public lands are destroyed in pursuit of profit; and whether the goals of corporations override public safety. Furthermore, his decision serves as a model for neighboring New York and Pennsylvania, where gas drilling companies are waiting anxiously to begin fracking across the states."
Walsh and representatives of the Delaware Riverkeeper, the New Jersey Environmental Federation, the New Jersey Sierra Club, and Environment New Jersey are planning the press conference.